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Chester Nez: Last of the Navajo Code-Talkers

When Chester Nez attended boarding school in the 1930s, he risked having his mouth washed out with soap if he spoke in Navajo instead of English. But fortunately for America’s fortunes during World War II, he never forgot the language of his people.

chesternezNez, who died on June 4 at age 93 in Albuquerque, N.M., was the last of the U.S. Marine Corps’ original group of 29 Navajo code talkers, who used their native language to transmit radio messages on troop movements and battlefield tactics that baffled Japanese eavesdroppers.  The code-talkers developed an alphabet using common Navajo words – “A” in English, for example, might become “wolla-chee,” the Najavo word for ant – and used common Navajo words to symbolize military lingo. A tank, for example, might become “chay-da-gahi,” the Navajo word for tortoise, according to U.S. Navy historians’ list of Navajo code terms .

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Here are some facts about Nez and his remarkable contribution to the war effort and later life:












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Here’s an interview that Nez gave in 2013, while he was in Washington, D.C., to accept the Audie Murphy Award for distinguished service from the American Veterans Center.


Photo: Fronteras Desk/Flickr


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